I believe it is an air quality issue and a land-use issue. Utah has already lost 90 percent of its original wetlands. Anything that would further damage wetlands is unacceptable. —Carl Ingwell, co-founder of the group Governor We Cannot Breathe
FARMINGTON — The microphone at a transportation meeting soliciting public comments about the route for the proposed West Davis Corridor received a workout Tuesday evening, as hundreds of people showed up to render their opinions.
"There is no solution that will impact no one and nothing," said Albert Whipple, a Davis County resident for 50 years. "You have chosen the best available solution. Not building the road is also not practical."
That was not the view of many groups and people gathered out front of the Legacy Events Center in protest of the planned highway.
"I believe it is an air quality issue and a land-use issue," said Carl Ingwell, co-founder of the group Governor We Cannot Breathe. "Utah has already lost 90 percent of its original wetlands. Anything that would further damage wetlands is unacceptable."
The Utah Department of Transportation has a released an environmental impact study on the proposed highway in western Davis and Weber counties and is holding public hearings and soliciting written comments through the summer.
In its analysis of the project, the agency settled on the Glovers Lane option as its preferred alternative, as opposed to the more easterly route of the Shepard Lane option.
Many residents of the Quail Crossing subdivision in Farmington and west Kaysville who said they would have lost their homes or had their neighborhood ripped apart by the highway for the Shepherd Lane route told UDOT they were grateful.
"The Glovers Lane option makes sense financially and passes the common sense test," said Neal Geddes, adding that the option moves traffic more efficiently and has the least impact on people and homes.
Another resident who spoke in favor of the Glovers option urged UDOT to finalize its decision so people are no longer held hostage by uncertainty.
"Build it quickly," said Barry Luecklear. "My life has been on hold. If you are going to do it, make it quick, make it flat and blend it into the existing landscape so we don't have to hear it and breathe it."
Many like Luecklear urged UDOT to replicate the Legacy Parkway by imposing a lower speed limit and restricting commercial truck traffic.
The 20-mile route proposed by UDOT begins in Farmington and eventually swings into western Davis and Weber counties, ending in Hooper.
Major east-west arterial routes serving subdivisions and businesses that have proliferated west of I-15 are clogged, and the transportation agency said it's going to get even worse over the next 30 years.
By 2040, the transportation agency said the population in that northern section of the state will increase by 64 percent, employment will go up by 49 percent, housing by 90 percent and travel delays by 122 percent because of congestion.
Dale Newbold, an engineer, said he's lived in Davis County "long before there was I-15," and he remembers when people doubted the need for the north-south route.
"It's very emotional," he said, describing the concerns raised over the West Davis Corridor. "People have legitimate concerns, but from a planning standpoint it is essential."
Critics, however, said the highway will be detrimental for Davis and Weber county residents.
"Highways, freeways, divide communities," said Salt Lake City resident Roger Borgenicht, co-chairman of Utahns for Better Transportation. "Boulevard communities bring communities together."
That organization is working through what Borgenicht described as a rigorous analysis to offer UDOT what is called a "shared solution," which focuses on making improvements to existing streets and roadways.
The group hopes to present it to the agency as an alternative to any highway that is contemplated.
Two additional open houses and public hearings are scheduled this week: Wednesday at West Point Junior High, 277 W. 550 North, West Point; and Thursday at Freedom Elementary, 4555 W. 5500 South, Hooper.
Each evening includes an informational open house from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and a public hearing from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
UDOT will not release its final analysis until later this year on what route would satisfy transportation and environmental requirements. A final decision on the route, if any, will be made by the Federal Highway Administration in the spring of 2014.